Arc One. Chapter One. The Second Worst Day
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They say the worst day of your life is when someone dies. For Peter, that was the day his uncle Ben died.

He had been waiting to pick him up from soccer practice. When he was a child Peter loved sports, the feeling of running free, the rush of scoring a goal, and then finally the pizza afterwards. It was the final and Peter’s team had made it all the way to the Cup, but Uncle Ben had been ill. Knowing it was important he had taken Peter anyway, staying in the car to keep warm, and while Peter was celebrating his win with the team, a carjacker had tapped a gun on the window.

Uncle Ben had always been a logical and practical man, working with his hands, rebuilding and fixing cars, and he was never one to back down from a problem. As he argued with the man, trying to persuade him to take the higher ground, the teams were let out, and an excited Peter rushed towards him. Fearing for the boy, Ben grabbed the gun, which went off. As he lay in the parking lot of the sports centre, he quietly passed away in the arms of one of the other dads at the match. He was a retired police officer and while he gave as much comfort as he could, a few of his friends chased and caught the killer.

The funeral had been surreal to the 8-year-old. Unsure of what to do or how to act, he simply held onto Aunt May's hand the entire time. She cried and while there were well-wishers there, no one stayed to help after the wake was over. She had cried alone, and Peter had no idea at the time what to do to make her feel better.

To add to the misery, the carjacker got no jail time. His defence, surprisingly competent for a public defender, argued enough distortions into the case and caused enough reasonable doubt that he walked free, a stupid smug grin on his face.

"Hey kid", he shouted to the boy, standing stupefied as to why his Aunt was crying. "No harm no foul huh?" his lawyer shushing him and pulling him away as he complained.

It's a pain you can't explain, a hollow empty kinda hurt, like losing a piece of yourself when really, nothing's missing. Peter would look round and expect his uncle to be there and the pain would take his breath away, he would stare into space, trying not to cry as he fought against the memory of that day.

His Aunt May was the only person he had left in the world after that. His parents had died in a car accident when he was just a baby and he never remembered them, so alone with only each other they did the best they could.

The life insurance payout was minimal at best, forcing the young boy and his Aunt to move back into Midtown, a small apartment at the limit of their budget. Aunt May made sure that Peter never went without, even if she had to work two jobs and spent most of the time exhausted. They might not have had the best, and some things might have had a more dubious origin but Peter knew that he was loved. Aunt May made sure of it.

Life became more of a routine to be filled than an event. Aunt May took a job at a laundromat and a local convenience store, her meagre wage supporting Peter as he changed schools and tried his best to shoulder the pain. Peter wasn’t stupid though and he could see that the work was slowly killing her. She was only in her early 50’s but the stress of the store and the less than stellar safety equipment at the laundromat was slowly ageing her beyond her years. He knew she would never say anything, knew she would rather suffer than have him see one second of her pain, and he promised himself that one day he would make sure she never had to work for one second longer than she had to.

Changing school should have been a good thing, new friends and new memories to help cope with the grief of losing his uncle, but his lack of enthusiasm for sports isolating him in the football dominated Midtown Junior Elementary. Its effects rippled into Midtown High, where after an off the cuff remark about wasting money that could have gone to the science club, Eugene "Flash" Thompson decided to make Peter's life hell.

It started off as small stuff. Peter would find his locker vandalised, one of his books would be missing and hidden somewhere Peter either couldn't get to or reach. It started small, but by the time the boys hit puberty and Flash, once similar in build to Peter buffed up, helped by sports and a whisper of various chemicals, it turned worse. The once harmless and childish pranks became much more sinister. Peter would find his locker not just vandalised but trashed, his books ripped or covered in something worse than water. On a few occasions, it even turned violent, when Flash knew there were no teachers around Peter “fell” and managed to burst his own lip.

The school was no help. Even when Aunt May made a scene they did nothing, Flash was too well known, too important to the school and even as a High School football player the sponsorship deals and publicity he brought to the school made him untouchable. More importantly, he was rich and the donations his father gave to the school each year would hurt the already flagging school budget. Flash was given a minor telling off, while glaring daggers at Peter. All they had done was made it worse and from then on, Peter said nothing, quietly swallowing the humiliation and the anger at both Flash and the school.

He only had two things in his life that made High School bearable. The first was a girl. Gwen Stacy. Her love of science and math, plus her uncaring attitude towards Flash and his pose meant that as soon as she decided Peter and her were friends, they were friends.

Gwen was just as brilliant as Peter, even if their talents lay in different fields. He could look at something, listen to its motions, its noise, and figure out what was wrong with it. Of course, this had been trained by years of taking things apart and putting them back together again, even if he wasn't always successful. Gwen’s lay in the chemical, She could look at a formula on paper and know what it was, math came easy to them both and they bonded over shared science and math clubs.

Gwen was the one person that Peter knew he liked more than just a friend, they shared looks, small intimate hugs, and the little things he felt made it more special than with anyone else, but he also saw the way Flash looked at her, the way everyone looked at her, and then the looks they gave him right after. He was afraid, not just of the rejection if she did say no but of what the school would do, Flash didn’t need a reason but this was giving everyone else one.

As part of their group, Felicia Hardy also kept a presence in Peter's life. She always seemed more interested in Gwen but as they spent more and more time together he found comfort in a familiar face, another person who when confronted by Flash made sure not just him, but the rest of his group knew she didn’t care who his father was. Being the captain of the Judo club also gave her a menacing air that meant Flash and the others kept away from her, and in turn from Peter.

While not quite a friend Peter had one last person in his life. Harry Osborn. The son of the second richest man in America, he, unfortunately, failed to follow in his father’s footsteps. His intelligence was lacking, as was his motivation, and it came down to Peter, the smartest boy in school to help him. His mother died of a rare and incurable genetic disease and it was her wish that Harry be raised with a more grounded education. Harry had been glad, his relationship with his father was strained and doing anything that made him angry was a plus in Harry's book.

Of course, his father, Norman Osborn, objected and when Harry's grades came back as below average it fell to Peter to raise them, earning a small sum to help with bills he readily accepted. Norman never really accepted the boy, his background was offensive to the billionaire but Harry and Peter ignored him, a rare act of defiance on Harry’s part.

Peter kept himself to himself, even when an old childhood friend resurfaced, MJ Watson, Peter kept his distance. Time, awkwardness, and a stark warning from Flash made him realise they were living two separate lives now. They shared classes, shared friends but never reconnected in a meaningful way. Peter was polite but distant. With most of his classmates, Peter was polite but distant. Each one of them had a connection to Flash, each one of them looked at him with either disgust or pity, suffering the rumours and stories spread by not just Flash but the crowd of cronies making Peter's life worse than he could imagine.

The years spent in Midtown slowly grew, and Peter, once a cute 8-year-old, found himself in the prime of life, 18 and graduating, his last year at Midtown High. Academically, he would graduate Valedictorian with scholarships to New York Universities mechanical and electrical engineering departments, a full-ride grant covering all his costs.

Everything was on track, he had the education planned, he had an internship with Hammer Technologies planned and accepted. With Harry being the son of Norman Osborn he had even offered to get him an internship there, but Peter had refused. Not out of foolish pride but simply he was afraid that Flash would be there, Gwen had already warned him he had been in the building a few times, speaking to her as if they were friends and Peter knew that if Flash found him, he would either lose his place or the bullying would continue. This was Peter's way of escaping from the hell he had made the past four years, even if Hammer didn’t have the most dazzling reputation, it was still one of the big three.

Stark Enterprises would have been his first pick, but no one got an internship with Stark unless you already had a huge line of credentials, with Oscorp being the territory of Flash that left him with Hammer, and he had hollered with joy as he was accepted. Justin Hammer was more of a showman in Peter’s eyes, but he still got military contracts, still got plenty of press, and it was still a huge deal on Peter’s C.V.

He had just celebrated his 18th birthday, the cold winter months would soon be coming to an end and with Christmas and the New Year out of the way he only had 6 months left of school to worry about. Exams and the end of year Prom, which once he worked up the courage he would ask Gwen if she wanted to go with him. He was building to it, last week when she said happy birthday she gave him a quick peck on the cheek before scampering off and hiding next to Felicia, who seemed to be annoyed she did it as much as Peter seemed to be happy she did. He had proof she liked him, and he was going to do it, he had even started to look at corsages, which Aunt May began to tease him mercilessly about.

Even with Flash making sure his days at school were miserable he could come home to a safe and welcoming home. Life was good, it could be better, Peter knew it could be but he was still happy. He just hoped that Uncle Ben would be proud of him.

~

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